06 May 2011

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet and Me

About a year and a half ago, upon being invited to our house for Thanksgiving dinner, a friend told me that she was on a very restrictive diet for medical reasons.  I didn't ask too many questions (people who care to share medical information usually do so without much prompting, and those who don't are usually happy for the privacy), and she sent me her allowable food list with the hope that there might be a few things she could eat, and the reassurance that it wouldn't be a big deal if she wouldn't be able to eat much- holidays are about family and friends, after all!

Based on that food list guidance, I changed my turkey brine to a honey based solution instead of sugar, and we had roasted butternut squash instead of sweet potatoes.  With the garlic green beans and warm spinach salad, I was quite pleased that there would be more interesting options next to the mashed potatoes and dinner rolls.  I consider fruits, non-starchy vegetables, and unprocessed meats the most nutritious part of a diet; the SCD food list seemed to set apart the most nourishing foods of our diet.  Queue the Friends clip [3:10] of guest star Brad Pitt:  "Two greatest enemies, Ross - Rachel Green and complex carbohydrates." 

Checking the food list so often in preparation for this meal, I learned that the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) was introduced in Elaine Gottschall's book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle.  From what I read, the diet was indicated for serious digestive problems like [links may have graphic images of intestinal diseases] Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.  The book (that I hadn't yet read) detailed how the organisms that live in our digestive track (google 'gut flora' for more details) react to the different types of food we eat.  Apart from adding an interesting component to the holiday meal, I really didn't think much about the SCD at that time.

The following summer, while visiting my family, my sister mentioned her diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  When I researched the syndrome, most of the symptoms sounded strangely familiar.  The more I read, the more I realized that I have had these symptoms most of my life, without knowing that the symptoms were anything different than 'normal human digestion'.  Everything would seem perfectly fine for a week or a month, and then I'd have issues for a day or a month.  When you live with a condition for 15 years, how do you know what is normal and what isn't?